Minister's Corner: We want miracles without work

Rev. Ray Belford, Senior Pastor
Shawnee First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rev. Ray Belford

It is hard to believe it has been almost a year since we started shutting down our churches due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For many of us, it seems more like two years, and we want it to be over. It is hard to be patient.

This time last year our Shawnee Ministerial Association had begun the Community Ecumenical Lenten Worship series. We had the schedule set but after the first two well-attended services we had to stop due to the pandemic. Lenten services were cut short and we were unable to have our normal in-person worship during Holy Week and Easter.

Our church, and I expect many others, did not have their annual Thanksgiving Dinner—too much danger of a super-spreader of the disease. Most Christmas Eve Candlelight Communion Services were video services or held in parking lots. I don’t know about you and where you go to church, but I missed having our sanctuary decorated for Christmas. Lighting the Advent Candles just wasn’t the same with only me in the sanctuary creating a video service.

Normally, our church would have had our annual Community Ground Hog Dinner last Tuesday. We have been having the annual event for more than 20 years and in recent years used the event to help the Salvation Army Boys/Girls Clubs. However, due to the pandemic we had to cancel. Many other churches had to make similar cancelations regarding community programs.

If we don’t get this pandemic under control, we will be rethinking holding Ash Wednesday Services and the beginning of Lent along with other churches in our community and state.

I believe we all long for celebrating Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday in a regular worship environment, and I am praying that with vaccinations, wearing masks, keeping physical distancing, and washing our hands things will begin to look more normal during this upcoming Holy Season.

I don’t know about our other pastors, but I’ve had enough of Zoom meetings.

The author of an article I read this week points out that “Patience is a rare and thin commodity in the United States, these days. We are all tired of waiting.”

He says, “It’s been a year since the coronavirus first appeared and about 11 months since the shutdowns began. And we are sick of it. The virus. The promises and prevarications. The masks, the hand washing, the social distancing. The shutdowns. The death tolls every night on the news.

“We want to take off the face coverings and breathe without having our glasses fog up. We want the skin on our hands to get back to something like normal after being ravaged by incessant washing. We want to go to the movies, the bowling alley, the gym, the pub, and church. And we want to hug each other again.”

He continues: “We want a vaccine. Now!….We want a robust, muscular vaccine with superpowers that will make us virus bullet proof. And we want it the way it was promised. Right now!”

This feeling of wanting everything solved right now struck me with how many times in the Bible Mark uses the term “immediately.” In just the first chapter of Mark, it seems that Jesus is doing something in every verse. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. He chooses His first disciples. He teaches in such a way that people were amazed. He cast out an unclean spirit. Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law when he takes her hand, and she is immediately healed. People find out Jesus is there they show up seeking healing. Jesus gets up the next morning and immediately goes off to pray, then they leave for nearby towns. Jesus heals a Leper who was immediately made clean.

It sure would be great if Jesus solved all our problems with this pandemic immediately. We want Jesus to answer our prayers immediately, to heal those who are suffering from COVID-19 immediately, to restore our unity and heal our nation, immediately.

We want the miracles, yet in so many ways it seems we don’t want to do some of the work to be part of the solution. Yet we who truly want to follow Jesus have a responsibility to tone down our anger and finger-pointing. We need to find ways to serve one another and heal the wounds that cause division. It would be great if that happened immediately, but with prayer, patience, and showing God’s love through our actions, it can happen.

It starts with getting a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible, continuing to wear masks (now suggested to be doubled-up), and maintaining physical distancing. This how we can help the most and have the most immediate return to normal with Jesus’ help.